I used 13 criteria in evaluating subscription services. Each is expressed here as a negative experience (from most annoying to least) for the would-be unsubscriber. Obviously, the ideal score would be zero hassles.
- Found nothing on the Web site about how to cancel the service.
- Received one or more bills for service after canceling.
- Found cancellation instructions only after extensive site sleuthing.
- Had to call for a refund.
- Experienced long hold times while canceling via phone.
- Had to make multiple phone calls to get customer service for a cancellation question.
- Had to begin the cancellation process online, and then had to call to cancel anyway.
- Subjected to an exit interview and/or an agent's pitch for upgraded service when canceling via phone or the Web.
- Had to call to cancel.
- Encountered a fine-print surprise.
- Experienced moderate hold times while canceling via phone.
- Found cancellation instructions only after moderate site sleuthing.
- Received commercial e-mail even after canceling.
In my real-world tests of 32 services, only a couple--Consumer Reports Online and The New York Times TimesSelect--posted perfect marks. But those two deserve special praise for making unsubscribing a truly hassle-free experience and for setting a standard that other services would do well to emulate.